After Alexander’s death, (11 June 323 BCE) he left an expansive empire without a readily apparent heir. Alexander had a son on the way but he was not born, in Macedonia there was no universal agreement on how to handle the world left for them. The foot companions wanted a new king, skip back to Phillip II and appoint Alexander’s ‘half-wit half brother’ to the throne. Others like Alexander’s bodyguards and friends wanted to appoint a regent and wait to see what happened. Ptolemy of Egypt, Alexander’s close friend wanted to appoint a commission until Alexander’s son was born: here is the main source of decentralization splitting apart Alexander’s won world. The powers of decentralization won over and the wars over territory began.
The Wars of the Diadochi were wars fought between Alexander’s successors for control of the great empire Alexander left behind which took place for two decades after his death. Conflict and war persisted afterwards in pursuit of territory and power; tensions began to ease by 275 BCE. By 250 BCE around seventy years after Alexander’s death, there was some layout for Alexander’s previous empire. Ptolemy reigned over Egypt, Coele-Syria and scattered territories on the southern coast of Asia Minor. The vast majority of Alexander’s empire, the Asian territories fell into the hands of Antiochus. Antigonus ruled Alexander’s home, Macedon and Greece.
There were some similarities between the successor states of Alexander. Hellenistic civilization flourished, continuing the work of Alexander the Great in fusing Greek culture into the local culture. Perhaps most successfully the pursuit of knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge and realization that knowledge is power was held in all of the successor kingdoms. Each kingdom set up Hellenistic Capitals that achieved the height of what the Hellenistic World meant: meeting and surpassing the intellectual centers and achievements of Alexander’s time. Each kingdom continually perpetuated Hellenistic culture and the Greek language until their demises. The three kingdoms also had similar base structure to the set up of their political structure. In all kingdoms the king was the state, and the king had ministers and councils of advisors and secretaries.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Successor States.
Macedonia was the poorest out of the three successor states of Alexander’s world. While saying they were the poorest is disingenuous as they were the richest nation in the Greek Peninsula but their economy paled in comparison to those of Egyptians and the Seculids. Although limited in wealth, Macedonia had a lot of internal strength. Macedonia was a strong national state that ethnically homogenous and very prideful, which helped their military prowess. Their national army was made up of Macedonian peasants and they only had minimal use of mercenaries: which were always Greek and primarily used to spare the peasantry of mass casualties. A unique feature of Macedon was the position that the king took towards land ownership. The land of Macedon was not the king’s land, rather the free peasantry’s land. The source of income from the land was a land tax on the peasants. Court life in Macedon reflected Greek culture with extravagance at the highest levels of power. Another strength of Macedon was its brilliant culture and excellent leadership, with extremely capable leadership throughout its time as a kingdom. Unlike the other kingdoms Macedon was the only one to retain the old conception of kingship, never adopting the ways of Hellenistic Monarchy and deistic attitudes towards the king that the Ptolomies and Seleucids did.
Macedon also suffered from some dire weaknesses. While comparatively rich to its surroundings, the other successor states of Alexander far surpassed the wealth they could collect. The problem of the size of the kingdom did not just affect its wealth, they were never able to achieve an army the size that Alexander and Phillip were able to achieve. Another drain on Macedon was the unique population drain that they suffered. Macedonians and Greeks were highly favored in the other post-Alexander kingdoms of Seleucid and Ptolemy; as such there was a pulling force on the population of Macedon. In seeking a better life for themselves or in pursuit of wealth Macedonians would leave the kingdom of their homeland, resulting in a significant population loss.
The Seleucids solidified their empire in 301 BCE after the Battle of Ipsus. The Seleucids established two capitals: Antioch on the Orontes and Seleucia on the Tigris, which was north of Babylon. The Seleucid Empire inherited the majority of Alexanders previous empire extending from modern day Turkey to the east around the Bactria region. Economically the Seleucids had an advantage, in terms of the hierarchy of economic power of the three main successor states they laid in the middle; very well off, but in the end unable to compete with the economic juggernaut that the Ptolomies had in Egypt. The Seleucids had a unique policy towards land, that reflected a modern land reform, with lease land holding being the predominant way land was held and worked by the population.
This vast empire proved difficult to be difficult to manage, as the Seleucids suffered many weaknesses rather than strengths. One of their weaknesses was the lack of homogeneity in the Seleucid Empire, and was difficult to govern. The native Persian culture was resistant and the Seleucids had to attempt to govern through culture. Culture became the definition of citizenship rather than ethnicity. Pursuing the Hellenistic culture fusion was their main means of governing. The administration was foreign, with Macedonian kings that ruled in lines of Hellenistic Monarchy, they did not deify themselves as kings as the Ptolomies did but declared themselves ‘favored’ by the Gods. This foreign rule was a tough sell at times and the Macedonians and Greeks seemed to center in the Decopolis region. The region had a steady flow of Greeks into this region as an effect from Macedon’s ‘Greek drain.’ The size of the empire proved to be a weakness in the end, with the size of the empire continually ‘ebbing and flowing based on the successes of the monarchs.’ The size of the Seleucid Empire was largest at its start, and began to steadily shrink from there. Another weakness was the flippant way the monarchs treated their economic policies. There were taxes, but monarchs in blaming themselves and taking blame for their failures would remit taxes for that year. While when they were successful they made sure to collect their due taxes. This inherently caused an up and down wave in an empire that was already surfing on sine waves.
The Ptolomies of Egypt were the most successful of the successor states of Alexander. The first Ptolomies made it their priority to reinvest in what they knew was a great investment: the rebirth of Egypt. Egypt was well known to be able to produce unrivaled output with capable leadership. This economic potential is what led to Egypt becoming the powerhouse in the Hellenistic period. Taking cue from Egyptian history Ptolemy declared himself not as a successor to Alexander the Great but God-King, Pharaoh of Egypt: establishing the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Adopting all the trappings of Egyptian rule such as familial inbreeding and centralization. The King owned everything in Egypt, with exception of two Greek colonies on a land-lease basis; the Pharaoh owned everything from land to sheep. The Ptolomies had no desire to have the population involved with the governing of the kingdom, there were no ideas of freedom. This policy allowed the Ptolomies to expertly extract all the great economic potential of the land. With the expansion into new territory and colonies, the trend of centralization continued.
As a result from their economic prowess, the Ptolemaic Dynasty was able to achieve the height of what Hellenism meant. Alexandria was the epicenter of Hellenistic culture and the pursuit of knowledge. The great Library of Alexandria, whose legacy stands thousands of years later was an extraordinary representation of the success of the Ptolomies. The advances in science, engineering were represented in the re-digging of the canal and the Wonder of the Lighthouse of Alexandria. With minor weaknesses such as familial divides and in-fighting, the Ptolemaic Dynasty was an amazing representation of the Hellenistic Period. With the eventual demise to Rome as with the other successor kingdoms, Egypt was the one who was able to hold out the longest.
It is important to note that all of the successor kingdoms were effective in continuing Alexander’s legacy. Hellenistic Culture was spread and nurtured and achieved advances that would have made Alexander proud. With the rise of Rome, the Hellenistic Period died out, and the successor states to Alexander slowly were absorbed. The conquest of Rome was not the end of Greek culture and Hellenistic ideals- Greek culture was absorbed. The influence of Greek culture stood the test of time, as Alexander’s influence can be traced until today.